West Chicago preparing to appoint acting mayor
West Chicago Mayor Mike Kwasman had a plan and vision for the city, his longtime friend and colleague Ruben Pineda said Thursday, and officials plan to see it carried out.
Kwasman, 65, died April 17 after suffering a heart attack days before at a local restaurant.
"He could've come to West Chicago and relaxed and did nothing. But he was very visionary. He came in and hit the ground running," said Pineda, an alderman and the city's deputy mayor. "The guy had a plan. He was very, very proud of West Chicago. He wanted to make sure that West Chicago had a great reputation, because at one time we didn't.
"He didn't take 'no' for an answer. He always had something in the works. And he always followed through."
Now Pineda says it's up to him, the other 13 members of the city council and city administrators to follow through with what Kwasman started.
Pineda, who has been an alderman for 14 years, was chosen by Kwasman to be deputy mayor to fill in for him in any absence. Following Kwasman's death, the city council will consider formally appointing Pineda as acting mayor at Monday's meeting.
Pineda, 52, who works for a fire protection services company, will serve the remaining time on Kwasman's term, which expires next year. Pineda could decide to run for mayor in April, though he says it's too early to say whether he will.
"It's still a little early. I'd like to see how things unfold and move forward. If I decide to run, I'd have to have several discussions with my wife," Pineda said.
He said he and Kwasman met often to discuss city issues. One major project is redevelopment of Washington Street in the downtown area.
The city acquired about 14 acres with preliminary plans to construct a new city hall, buildings for retail and office use and a parking structure. The park district also has considered building a community center, though an effort to pass a $19.5 million bond referendum proposal was narrowly defeated at the polls earlier this year.
A consulting firm has developed a conceptual site plan for the area and architectural options for the buildings, though Pineda said plans are still in the early stages. Officials still need to discuss how the project would be paid for, he said.
Currently, environmental remediation is being conducted to evaluate the condition of the existing properties, which include the park district's old administration office, a former gas station, scrap yard, restaurant and house.
A similar downtown redevelopment plan for Main Street was shelved when the economy worsened, Pineda said, but officials are planning to move forward on that effort as well.
"Getting some draw downtown would be excellent," Pineda said. "We want to draw as many businesses and people -- to have a place to live, stores to patronize."
Pineda said another item on the city's agenda in the coming months is establishing quiet zones in neighborhoods near the Canadian National railroad.
City Administrator Michael Guttman said this year will be the last for cleanup of thorium on residential properties .
"The best thing we can do is to carry on the goals (Kwasman) and the council had in mind," Guttman said. "It will be the best tribute to him."